Are Disagreements among Male and Female Economists Marginal at Best? A Survey of Aea Members and Their Views on Economics and Economic Policy

By Mari, Ann; McGarvey, Mary G. et al. | Contemporary Economic Policy, January 2014 | Go to article overview

Are Disagreements among Male and Female Economists Marginal at Best? A Survey of Aea Members and Their Views on Economics and Economic Policy


Mari, Ann, McGarvey, Mary G., Whaples, Robert, Contemporary Economic Policy


I. INTRODUCTION

Few changes in the demographics of higher education in the United States have been as pronounced as the increasing percentage of doctoral degrees awarded to women in the past 40 years. In 1975, men received the majority of bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees; by 2000, the majority of bachelor's and master's degrees were awarded to women. In 2002. for the first time in U.S. history, more American women than American men received doctoral degrees from U.S. universities and today more doctorates are awarded to women than to men at U.S. universities. (1)

Although the proportion of women in economics continues to lag behind that of other social science disciplines, data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates show that women represent 34.4% of new doctorates in economics from U.S. universities in 2011, up from 28.1% in 2001 (Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities 2011: Table 14 National Science Foundation 2012). This represents a 6.3 percentage point increase over the period as compared with an average 2.5 percentage point increase for all fields. As a result, increasing numbers of female economists are actively involved in research and policy making on a variety of levels including the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank to the Council of Economic Advisors. But does it make any difference if men or women are at the table when economic policies are debated and alternatives considered? Or, are disagreements between male and female economists marginal at best?

In this study, we survey male and female economists who are members of the American Economic Association (AEA) and provide what is the first systematic study of the views of male and female economists on a wide variety of policy issues to determine if there are differences in the views of male and female economists after controlling for place of current employment (academic institution with graduate program, academic institution--undergraduate only, government, for-profit institution) and decade. of PhD.

A. Consensus and the Economics Profession

Numerous studies using survey *data to examine the degree of consensus among economists have been published over the past 25 years (Alston, Kearl, and Vaughan 1992; Frey et al. 1984; Fuller and Geide-Stevenson 2003; Kearl et al. 1979; Whaples 2006). While these surveys appeared relatively late in economics as compared with other social science disciplines, the importance of consensus within the discipline has a long history. In fact, concern over consensus dates back to the origins of the AEA where the annual meeting offered a forum for developing consensus in a discipline thought to reflect a sometimes embarrassingly wide array of views on economic policy questions. Economists, in particular, had much to gain in the professionalization of higher education and the lack of consensus on economic questions served as yet one more reminder of the possibly less-than-scientific nature of a discipline aspiring to be scientific (Coats 1993).

Recent studies examine consensus among economists by focusing on underlying assumptions, methodology, and policy issues. The results of these studies indicate that economists are less supportive of government intervention in the economy than their counterparts in other social science disciplines (Klein and Stern 2005, 2007) and that a fair degree of consensus exists among economists. Kearl et al. (1979, 36) in their study of U.S.. economists in a survey conducted in 1976 report more consensus on microeconomic than macroeconomic issues, but overall report that the "perceptions of widespread disagreement are simply wrong."

In a follow-up study, Alston, Kearl, and Vaughan (1992) find that although opinions of U.S. economists on particular issues had shifted, a similar pattern of consensus emerged with the caveat that degree vintage and subgroup (AEA membership, government economists, business economists, teachers of principles of economics courses at 4-year institutions, and institutional economists) are also important determinants of consensus On various questions. …

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